By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, December 14, 2016, lawyers for suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) filed a 95-page brief with the specially selected panel of judges at the Alabama Supreme Court.
Moore is represented by Liberty Counsel. The Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver said, “The brief dismantles the trumped up charges against Chief Justice Roy Moore. The JIC did not have the authority to review the Administrative Order. That authority belongs only to the Alabama Supreme Court and that court did not modify or overrule that order. Any objective review of this case must conclude that Chief Justice Moore did nothing wrong and should have never been charged. The JIC violated the rule of law and the COJ shamefully violated clear law when it de facto removed Chief Justice Moore when the order admits the court did not have the required unanimous vote to remove.”
Moore’s defense argued that the JIC does not have the jurisdictional authority to review administrative orders of the Alabama Chief Justice. That only the Alabama Supreme Court can do that. The JIC maintains that Chief Justice Roy Moore in January 2016, violated the Code of Judicial Canon when Chief Justice Moore refused to offer guidance to Alabama Probate Judges telling them to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Moore maintains that since a case brought by the conservative Alabama Policy Institute (API) was still before the court that he did not have the authority to issue any guidance and that review of such administrative orders are sole prerogative of the Alabama Supreme Court, not the JIC.
Moore’s attorney also argue that the Court of the Judiciary (COJ) violated Rule 16 which requires a unanimous 9-0 vote to remove a judge from office. Chief Justice Moore argues that the 27-month suspension is a de facto removal and that only a unanimous nine vote COJ has the authority to remove the Chief Justice. Instead of removing the Chief Justice, a majority of the COJ suspended Chief Justice Moore for the remainder of his term. Moore’s attorney argue that this action clearly violates Rule 16, and for this reason alone the decision by the COJ should be dismissed. The longest any judge has been suspended since Rule 16 was adopted in 2001 was only six months. Moore was suspended with the JIC brought its charges over six months ago and has not been paid since the COJ verdict in September.
Moore’s team also argue that Chief Justice Moore did not order the probate judges to disobey Judge Callie Granade’s order to thus Charge 6 must be dismissed because there was never a verified complaint for this charge, never a vote by the JIC to charge, never a Letter of Investigation, and not one six-week continuing Letter of Investigation.
The brief also argues that Charges one through six must all be dismissed because they are not supported by clear and convincing evidence. The defense claims that the JIC alleged that the January 2016 Administrative Order directed the probate judges to violate the US Supreme Court and the lower federal court injunction. But the Administrative Order on its face stated: “I am not at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court. That issue remains before the entire Court which continues to deliberate on the matter.”
The Moore defense team also argues that the automatic suspension provision is unconstitutional and accuses the JIC violated the confidentiality requirement by leaking to the media information about the impending charges prior to the charges being formally issued.
The JIC will then file its brief and Moore’s defense will then file a Reply Brief. Oral arguments will happen sometime in 2017.
On Friday, December 9, Moore told the Executive Committee of the Constitution Party that the effort to remove him is a political battle, not a legal battle. That he has the law on his side; but that he may not prevail because of the politics involved.
The case against Moore has been inexplicably sealed by the JIC. The Alabama Political Reporter has asked the Court to unseal those records immediately for the public to see the details of the case against the elected head of the Alabama Court system.